Have you ever heard that you can’t win if you don’t score? The pitching was strong today for the Yankees, keeping the Astros off the board except for a three-run Alex Bregman home run that turned out to be all they needed. The Yankees again could barely cash in runs, only scoring today thanks to two big fielding errors. The 2-0 hole they’re in isn’t insurmountable, but it will be if they can’t get their bats going immediately.
The Yankees’ new look at the top of the lineup didn’t pay off initially, with Harrison Bader, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton going down in the top of the first on nine pitches against Framber Valdez. But their own Game 3 starter, Luis Severino, looked dominant in his own right, getting Jose Altuve to ground out (aided by a nice sliding play by Oswald Peraza) and striking out Jeremy Peña and Yordan Alvarez.
New York fared better in the second. Gleyber Torres hit a hard ball to the warning track, and Josh Donaldson hit a pitch away from him for a two-out double, a welcome sight after how flat out bad he looked yesterday. But the weaker part of the lineup proved an issue again, as Kyle Higashioka struck out to strand him.
Sevy got into and out of trouble in the second. After Alex Bregman flew out, he walked Kyle Tucker, then allowed a single to the red-hot Yuli Gurriel. But he was able to strike out Aledmys Díaz and got Chas McCormick to pop out.
After the Yankees went down easily in the third, the Astros offense struck in a big way. With an 0-2 count, Severino hit Martín Maldonado on the forearm with a pitch to put the first batter on. The slumping Altuve struck out swinging, but Peña followed with a single to center. The dangerous Alvarez hit a ground ball to Rizzo, who was playing behind the bag. He threw to second to get Peña, but Alvarez was easily safe at first. With two outs, Bregman pulled a home run into left field, making it 3-0 Astros.
That could have been a knockout, but the Yankees got on the board right away in the fourth — albeit with help. After Judge led off with a single, Stanton tapped a ball back to Valdez. Valdez wanted to go to second for the double play but he juggled the ball, and then rushed a throw to first. That’s two errors on the same play — rough!
The ball went rolling into short right field, putting runners on second and third with no one out. Rizzo followed with a groundout to first, scoring Judge and allowing Stanton to advance. A Torres infield single to shortstop brought in a second run. Donaldson and Higgy struck out to end the frame.
Sevy bounced back with a quick and clean fourth, while Valdez only allowed a Bader single in the top of the fifth. In the bottom half of the frame, Maldonado hit a leadoff single to continue Yankee pitching’s issues with the bottom of the batting order, but Severino maneuvered through the next three batters successfully.
With Bregman due up to start the bottom of the sixth, there was a question if Sevy would come back out, but he did. He retired Bregman on a popup, but allowed a single to Kyle Tucker, sending Aaron Boone out to replace him with Jonathan Loáisiga. Right off the bat, he allowed a single to Gurriel. Fortunately, Diaz hit into a double play started by Donaldson to end the inning. Sevy finished with 5.1 innings, the three earned runs, and six strikeouts. The Bregman bomb turned out to be just a brutal blow.
Valdez ended his night by striking out the side in the seventh, all swinging. He simply had the hitters’ numbers; without his own fielding errors, they wouldn’t have scored at all. He allowed only four hits, struck out nine, and walked no one.
Loáisiga stayed in for the bottom of the seventh and infuriatingly walked Maldonado. But with one out, Altuve hit a ball to Torres that took a hard bounce. Torres fell down fielding it, but still threw to Peraza at second, who threw a ball that Rizzo scooped to get a nice double play.
Bryan Abreu entered for Houston in the top of the eighth. After Cabrera flew out, Bader walked. Judge followed with a heart-stopping drive to right that looked like a home run, but that Tucker caught literally with his back against the wall.
Bader advanced to second to put the tying run in scoring position, but after taking a 3-0 pitch that looked low but was called a strike, Stanton went down looking.
Loáisiga got the first out of the bottom of the eighth before giving way to Wandy Peralta. He allowed a single to Alvarez, then picked him off (he was originally called safe before the Yankees challenged and the call was overturned). Bregman singled too, but Tucker popped out.
Ryan Pressly entered to close the Yankees out. Rizzo worked a long at-bat, but struck out swinging. Torres struck out swinging. Donaldson did manage to work a walk, bringing up pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter as the go-ahead run. But he struck out as well on a check-swing, sending the series to New York with the Yankees in a big-time hole. They haven’t come back in a best-of-seven series that they’ve trailed 0-2 since the 1996 Fall Classic.
The series resumes with Game 3 on Saturday at 5:07 PM in the Bronx. Gerrit Cole on the mound for New York against a currently-unknown Astros starter. Whether it’s Lance McCullers Jr., Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, or an unretired Roy Oswalt, the Yankees won’t be able to hit him unless their offense turns things around in a hurry. The bats need to wake up, and fast, if they want to have any chance.